Pulse One Year Later - Gone but not Forgotten
Updated: Jun 2, 2019
Sunday, June 13, 2016, I awoke to the Pulse Night Club story splashed across my Facebook and Twitter page. I read each news post, watched every video and then dived into the comments. My mind was unable to comprehend what I was reading, most of all I was left to question what the long-term impact of this would be for me, for the LGBT Community and our Nation.
Sundays are early mornings for me as I need to prepare for service at my Spiritual Center. I do not call it a church because it is not a church, we are a spiritual center that welcomes all peoples, faiths and even those who have no spiritual beliefs yet only desire to live a better life. On this particular Sunday, getting ready and centering myself was paramount as I was delivering the day's reading as well as preparing and leading the morning's short meditation
Our Spiritual Center is small, and the LGBT influence even less. The most prominent members being my husband and me. As I prepared for the morning’s service, I was at a loss. I didn’t know how to react or if I should respond. As a Ministerial Candidate, my training tells me that I am there for the congregation, to make private as much as possible my feelings on issues and to remember that no matter how bad things appear, always work from a place of love and compassion.
And yet, as the members began arriving, I was amazed at the show of support, the love, and the genuine emotion our members were showing for Orlando, for the victims and family of the Pulse Night Club. Many of our members made a point to ask how my husband and I were doing. Because the news was fresh and limited at the time, I was at a loss for words. I could not understand why they would be worried about the effect this had on us since it happened on the other side of the country some 2500 miles from me. My spiritual community knew more than I did at the time. While it may not have hit me yet, they knew it was going to, and the impact was going to be devastating.
Terrorist attacks and Hate Crimes are occurring more often, and each attack affects us in different ways. How we react to one does not dimish the horrific nature of the other. It does us little good to compare one attack over another, believing that one act of terrorism is worse than another. Each offensive attack carries with it the same bag of emotions and severity, from the largest to the smallest. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the world trade center were horrible, the terrorist attack on at the Boston Marathon unimaginable. The list could go on.
The days, weeks and months that followed brought little comfort to me, with the pending elections and the hate filled speech of our political candidates, the world began to change. Being “politically correct” became a negative trait and one to be ridiculed. People started to say and do what they wanted without regard to the injury and harm they were doing to an entire generation. As we moved closer to election day, it was clear that the United States of America was changing. It was one thing for people to think and believe something, it now became acceptable and expected for people to say whatever was on their mind, regardless of how ignorant or damaging those words could be.
And so I took my rage that was building, the sadness and the hurt and stuffed it down deep inside. I did not express my pain to many but for a select trusted few. I watch something happen to me. I began to lose faith in the American People.
I started to look at the places where I shop and eat, wondering if I might be next. I began to question if it was a wise idea to live my life open, to “flaunt” my marriage to a man rather than just refer to him as my roommate. I became exceedingly more reserved and uncomfortable when anyone referred to my husband as my “husband” rather than my “partner.” Mentally and spiritually I was stepping back in the closet that I had fought so hard to exit.
Shortly after the elections, fear became a constant in my life. I fell into what for me was a deep depression, mixed with uncontrollable anger. My anger was directed not at any one thing but everything. I was convinced that our new Administration would start rounding up all gays and lesbians and placing them in camps. Social Media at the time was very quick to point out how anti-LGBT this new administration was shaping up to be.
When the push for “Conversion” therapy is highlighted as a cure and not the torture it is, fear runs high. Immediately my mind went to worst case scenarios. Having written a book about my coming out process as well as being on public record with my legal same-sex marriage, I realized very quickly that my husband and I would not be able to hide. We would not be able to go back into the closet and pretend to be what we never were.
The Pulse Terrorist attack was nothing less than a hate crime and terrorist attack regardless of our esteemed governments wish to acknowledge it or not. The LGBT community was targeted, targeted in one of the few places where we can be who we are. The place where we go dancing, hug, hold hands, kiss and socialize without fear. Many who go to gay clubs continue to live double lives, due to career, family or religious issues, yet in a club, those things no longer matter. The Gay Club or Bar is our haven when all others fail.
Regardless if Omar Maaten was officially affiliated with any known or suspected Terrorist organizations, this remains a terrorist attack and under every known definition should be classified as such as well as a hate crime. Omar Maaten took more than 49 lives that night. In that one act, he cracked the foundation of our sense of security and safety within the walls of the clubs we have come to call our second homes. Even those of us, my husband and I included, who almost never patronize the gay clubs, we still felt violated. For a moment we lost our sense of security, for a brief time we lost our innocence.
And so a year later I remember not only the 49 lives lost, but I also remember the 49 families whose lives are forever changed. I remember the lovers, the friends and the communities who suffered more than I can ever understand in the name of intolerance and hate. As a society, we tend to rate the severity by the number of victims, but we often forget to count the loved ones, communities, and friends of those who’s lives will never be the same.
Since the horrible and unimaginable events of June 12, 2016, our nation has changed. Progress made within the LGBT community has been lost, protections promised have not be delivered, and freedom of speech has now become the liberty of hate and liberty to discriminate. Teenagers are growing up in areas where intolerance and discrimination have increased. Some might ask what has changed? There has always been intolerance and discrimination within the LGBT community.
When I was growing up, I knew my place in the world. I “knew” that I would not be accepted. I “knew” I would have to live on the fringes and in the shadows. I did not grow up with the illusion nor the promise of acceptance or tolerance. Marriage equality was not even a consideration let alone a dream. The last 20 years changed that. So much had changed, so many people's ideas and perspectives change. An overall understanding started to grow. “Love is love.”
The country first moved to a state of tolerance, not the whole country, not everyone and not all religious leaders, but over all the country came to the point of tolerance, which in time transformed into acceptance and was evolving to a place of knowing that it just did not matter.
This acceptance created an environment for youth to know they were not alone. It opened avenues for them to get help and guidance when their lives were less than peaceful. The acceptance created places to turn to when their families rejected them, and environments which allowed them to grow into their authentic self. Because of this move to acceptance, some never had the need to hide at all. Others found strength and community to support them during a confusing period in their lives. This approval gave them the courage and the hope that it does get better, the promise of life they desired rather than the life they feared.
That has changed now. Hope is still there, but it is not as strong as it was. Courage battles fear for dominance, and in some cases, courage clouds the mind causing youth to take more chances in their quest for authenticity. Our social media shows us the depth of hate and disregard for ALL human life that is different from what is accepted as superior or the norm. Closet doors once opened and now being slammed shut, creating a new generation who will never truly know the strides that we had made.
It is time for our government to grant the protections promised for years. Democrats and Republicans alike need to stand together for life. Not suppression and not for persecution. Now is the time for our government to learn they do not rule over us, rather we employ them. Their personal views and opinions are irrelevant. They have forgotten that it is the will of the people, the will of the majority. It is time to remind them.
Pulse was a wake-up call. Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity, this hate crime, this act of terrorism must not go unnoticed. Even if you have no connection to the LGBT community you cannot ignore, you can not seek any form of justification. For the protection of our youth, for the prosperity of our country, we must stand together and remember that intolerance to one is an intolerance to all. When you attack one of us, you attack us all. Now is the time that this country needs to stand united, united as we have never stood before. Standing united goes beyond the LGBT community and their issues, it applies to us all as a country on all matters and all communities.
Last year the pulse of 49 lives stopped, now feel the Pulse of a Nation coming together in love, compassion, and gratitude. Pick up the phone, write an email, sign a petition and let our elected officials feel your pulse as we take back our control over our nation, control that Washington was never intended to have.